Street Photography ~ Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff, It’s The Story That Matters.
Street photography is about immortalizing a slice of life, a moment in time that will never happen again.
It was recently brought to my attention that a few things are ‘imperfect’ in a street photograph. A foot may be cut off or the horizon line is not straight. I thought that it was a valid observation from someone who doesn’t shoot street photography. The more I thought of it, the more I realized that this is probably one of the few genres of photography where the standard of success can be very subtle and often emotional. Because we work with such a fleeting moment that will never reoccur, we often need to compromise on the details. If you are a landscape photographer you have some latitude to work with, you can spend minutes or hours working on your composition, even come back at a different time if needed. In many genres of photography, the quest for so-called perfection is attainable with vision, skills and patience.
For those who are not familiar with street photography, it’s all about the gesture, the expression that tells a story. The moment will usually only last one frame, a fraction of a second. The success of the photograph will depend on the viewer’s reaction to it, not so much the technical merit of the shot. It’s about the ability to anticipate and see the story. Of course technical skills are also necessary to get the shot exposed properly and sharp.
I’m as seduced by a beautiful landscape as the next photographer, but when I shoot street I readjust my standards automatically. You could not enjoy the experience if you expected every element to come perfectly together in every image. I always scan the edges of my frame in the fraction of a second that I have to compose my shot. This prevents from including any major distraction, such as an antenna sticking out of someone’s head. You cannot control everything and some elements in the background will often add interest to the image, even if you where not aware of them at the time you pressed the shutter.
Since you have no control of a candid street situation, there is always a compromise. More often than not, you have the choice between a perfect composition or an interesting image. If you are a street photographer, you know exactly what I’m talking about! It’s the moment that matters.
I selected a few images to illustrate my point. Let your eye be drawn to the subject before you read the caption.
As always, I’d love to get your thoughts on this!